Probation staff fulfill a crucial role at Court. The Judge or Magistrate in each court case requires the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) to prepare a Pre Sentence Report (PSR) to help them make a decision about the most suitable type of sentence.
In order to produce the PSR a Probation Officer will interview the offender and will gather information from a range of other sources, for example; family, employer, school, and the police. If the offender is under 18 years old when they are being interviewed another adult must also be present.
The Pre Sentence Report (PSR) assesses the risk of re-offending and whether that risk could be managed in the community. The Probation Officer offers options to the court which he feels will give the offender the best opportunity either to make reparation, i.e. to give something back to the community, or to address their offending behaviour and lifestyle issues. This will also involve looking at what programmes and support are available in the community.
The PSR is then sent to the court in advance of the case being heard for the Magistrate to examine. In the PSR, the Probation Officer will have outlined a number of options for the magistrate to consider. For example, if someone has been convicted of a violent offence, the PSR might suggest the person attends a particular programme which will address this behaviour. This is known as an ‘extra requirement’ to a Probation Order.